Note: I typically made small edits as I posts from my old blog to this platform. Usually, these tweaks are limited to spelling mistakes and additional footnotes. However, as I made edits to a series of posts about the Great American Songbook, I realized that I forgot to publish a post. So, here’s the final post in my top-10 countdown of my favorite GAS songs.
Duke Ellington originally recorded “In a Sentimental Mood” in 1935. Multiple artists have covered the track over the years: my favorite rendition is the 1962 version recorded by Ellington and John Coltrane. This version shows shows a delicate and sensitive side to Trane’s brilliance. Duke Ellington is a master on the keys; this is a perfect pairing of two musical geniuses.
Shame on me: I didn’t hear this track until 1997’s Love Jones was released. For a self-professed jazz aficionado, that’s way too late.
I’ve blogged about my love of Porgy and Bess before, so it should come as no surprise that one of George and Ira Gershwin’s tunes from the opera would make the countdown. I read somewhere that “Summertime” is the most covered song ever; artists from Janis Joplin to John Coltrane to Al Green to Ella Fitzgerald to The Roots have recorded this aria. The appeal of the song is evident on it’s first listen – it’s just a great song to sing and play.
Of the many versions in my collection, Miles Davis’ recording will always stand as my favorite. This version, arranged by Gil Evans, has become the de facto standard. (Note: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong also have a nice recording, but this is one time where I think the classy Fitzgerald sounds out of place -though Satchmo fits right it).
I first heard Rogers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” on Rachelle Ferrell’s First Instrument. Right away, I fell in love with song. The words are so elegant: My funny valentine, Sweet comic valentine, You make me smile with my heart.
There are hundreds of versions of this song; notable covers include Chaka Khan’s take (her smoky voice really works), Melinda Doolittle’s American Idol performance, and Cyrus Chestnut’s version (with Anita Baker on vocals). Still, I don’t think anyone sings this as well as Ella Fitzgerald; the lyrics sound so regal coming from her. I guess there’s a reason she’s called the First Lady of Song.